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Invocations: Open Eyes

Our invocation for INTREPID comes from a children’s short story, written by John Aikin and his sister Anna Laetitia Barbauld, found in a collection printed c. 1900 by DC Heath & Co.

"Eyes and No Eyes" Odd Salon


In the story, called Eyes and No Eyes, two young boys report back after an afternoon walk. When asked what he’s seen, one boy grumpily explains that he saw nothing worth seeing, and that he was bored.

 "Eyes and No Eyes" Odd Salon

The second boy, however, describes the same walk as full of wonders: nesting birds and traces of Roman fortresses, a forest of church steeples, kingfishers and swallows, herons, dragonflies and a water-rat.

"Eyes and No Eyes" Odd Salon

The story ends with this observation, which caught the eye of The Royal Geographical Society in their revised edition of their famous Hints to Travellers guidebook. It reads:

“But so it is one person walks through the world with his eyes open, and another with them shut; and upon this difference depends all the superiority of knowledge the one acquires above the other. I have known sailors who had been in all the quarters of the worlds, and could tell you nothing but the signs of the tippling houses they frequented in the different ports, and the price and quality of the liquor. On the other hand, a [different man] could not cross the Channel, without making some observations useful to mankind. While many a vacant, thoughtless youth is whirled throughout Europe without gaining a single idea worth crossing a street for, the observing eye and enquiring mind find matter of improvement and delight in every ramble in town or country.”

Which reminds us that although we may not have Roman fort ruins we do have a lot of wonderful things, and although tit is easy to think of adventure as something to be found at the far ends of the world, the lessons about being daring & observant apply whether you are on the first expedition to the Galapagos since Darwin or testing the limits of human endurance ~or~ identifying red-tails in the hills and peregrines on the bridge, or finding the ruins of of our own forts & pleasure palaces here at home.

Scanned edition of Eyes & No Eyes on